By Robert Strauss
Under threatening skies on Sunday morning May 18, 500 former Wharton undergraduates — originally from 41 countries — joined the School’s global alumni network at Wharton’s 124th Commencement. Having marched into Franklin Field to the traditional “Pomp and Circumstance” — and to the cheers and cell-phone picture-taking of their friends and relatives — they listened to speeches that called on them to use their new degrees, and their zest, to change the world. Both Dean Thomas Robertson and Vice Dean Georgette Chapman Phillips told graduates that they were giving their first graduation speeches in the jobs they came to last fall, but that they would keep those speeches mercifully short.
“My words will flow in and out of your brain,” Phillips said, though she hoped the graduates would remember at least one thing from her speech. “Write this down if you need to: Don’t let your education just go to your head. Let it also go to your heart.” Robertson advised the students to think beyond strict financial solutions and toward creative ones. He invoked Nobel Prize-winner Muhammad Yunis, who used microfinance to revive economic hope in his native Bangladesh. “Where everyone saw despair, he saw opportunity,” said Robertson. Like Yunis, he said, he hoped that the new graduates would use their creativity to solve the problems before them because “we expect great things of you.” Student speaker Stuart Stein, W’08, also challenged his fellow graduates, saying that one of his favorite books, Good to Great, argues that “greatness starts at the intersection of talent and passion.”
Every day in his four years at Wharton, Stein said, he was amazed at the level of talent he saw around him, but added that “talent without passion is wasted… It is going to be up to us to start the next wave of social innovation. There is a world out there that needs fixing.”
Later in the day, new Wharton MBAs heard from Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr., C’87, who spoke on behalf of his father, alumnus Jon M. Huntsman, Sr., W’59, HON’96, as well as two graduates, William Jarvis II , WG’08, from the full-time MBA program and Michael Kesselman, WG’08, from the executive MBA program. Doctoral program graduates were addressed by Dean Robertson, Vice Dean Robert Inman, and Wharton Deputy Dean Michael Gibbons, while new Wharton West graduates of the executive MBA program heard from Art Bilger, the managing member of Shelter Capital Partners LL C, on May 11 at the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center’s Herbst Theater.